This Speaking Up post is part of the 2012 Midpoint Series. See all of the posts in the series here.
Back in December, I highlighted the Doodle Finder tool, and used it to investigate the gender distribution of Google Doodle honorees from 2008 to December 2011. For the Midpoint Series, I thought it would be interesting to take another look at this distribution with six more months of data. Today, I’ll focus on Doodles that have been shown in the United States; be sure to come back tomorrow to see the global results.
First, the fun stuff — the stats themselves. Below, I’ve given more detail on my methodology and approach to counting both male and female individuals who are honored with a Doodle. Head further into the post if you want to read that detail, but the gist is: I am confident that I am being conservative in the right direction. Let’s look at some numbers!
The chart above takes a look, year by year and in total, at the proportion of female honorees over the past several years of Google Doodles. In the United States, the numbers are really pretty simple to understand: they are pathetic. In 2012, 16 Doodles have been posted, and not a single one has honored a woman. Over the last several years, Doodles have done slightly better than that: 78 Doodles have been posted since the beginning of 2008, and in that time, 71 men and 7 women have been recognized. That’s reflected in the top bar of the graphic, with women’s overall representation in U.S. Google Doodles coming out to about 9%.
Before I leave you, some notes about my counting methods. Google Doodles come in a couple of flavors. Here at Speaking Up, we focus on Doodles that honor a particular individual on that person’s birthday. There are also Doodles that recognize other events that could be tagged with a gender — things like International Women’s Day, the anniversary of JFK’s inauguration, or the discovery of the X-ray, for a few examples that cover the spectrum of the types of events that are Doodled.
In my gender analysis, I exclude these “other” types of Doodle, for two reasons. First, that lets me focus on the individual honorees and highlight the gender disparity there. Second, however, it’s just much more difficult to objectively and consistently divide the other kinds of events along gender lines. For instance, Google Doodles will sometimes highlight an invention or discovery without calling out the individual. In some cases, I can easily identify the people (men, in the cases I have identified) responsible. It hardly seems fair to count these individuals in my statistics, which would skew the weight of my statistics even further toward men. Instead, I try to be conservative. In other cases, it’s not at all easy to see who is being honored: would I count Paddington Bear’s 50th birthday in the male column, given the author, or the female column, given the illustrator?
So, I focus on the Doodles that honor individuals. This leaves out Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day, certainly, but it also leaves out St. Patrick’s Day and Father’s Day. One particularly tricky case came up on June 2nd of this year, when Google highlighted the Queen’s Jubilee in several countries outside the U.S.. Since this Doodle recognized the anniversary of the Queen’s coronation, rather than her birth, and is focused on her position rather than Queen Elizabeth II as an individual, I haven’t counted it in the global statistics.
My dataset also only goes back to 2008, since that’s when Google really started pushing more of these special logos, and started focusing more on individuals instead of major holidays or cultural events. As far as I can tell, no women were honored prior to 2008.
Just like last time, I’m including the spreadsheet, which also includes some basic information on the other Doodles that were not included in the above figure. And it has a sneak peek at tomorrow’s post, since I track the United States and the global Doodles in the same place. If you’re interested, the information in the file could be used to look at a different subset of events than what I chose to include in the chart above. Take a look!